So two days ago, on a very hot, very humid Fourth of July, my fiance and I took our daughter for a walk around the neighborhood. We live in East Meadow in Nassau County on Long Island, not far from where my Raynor ancestors settled in Hempstead in the 1600s. But East Meadow is also an older settlement (though not colonial old) - my great grandmother, Amelia Ellen Berg, born in 1884, grew up in East Meadow, and her father, Theodore Peterson Berg, and his father, Peter Hansen Berg, both had farms in East Meadow. In fact, very cool fact, if you drive from my apartment to where my Raynor ancestors lived in Hempstead, you pass right by the house Amelia grew up in on Front Street. It's still standing, although it's a chiropractor's office or physical therapy place now or something.
It's not really a digression. The point is, I have deep roots in East Meadow as well, but I don't really know the town well and you don't really see much history around here. Except for the small patch of original Hempstead Plains still standing in nearby Eisenhower Park, there's really just a lot of 20th century housing and mini strip malls, like most of Long Island. So my fiance and I were walking down East Meadow Avenue, a pretty busy commercial-residential street. I was looking at the churches we were passing (I love old churches, too, bt dubs) and on the walk back, a sign caught my eye. It was a historical marker for the United Methodist Church cemetery, established in 1859. It's funny the things you notice when you're walking, not driving. Now, the current Methodist Church is in a modern 1950s building about a block or so north, but there was another church across the street that looked a lot smaller and a lot older, that probably once housed the Methodist Church until the congregation outgrew it. But I had never noticed a cemetery, and I *still* didn't see one. But we did see an apparently empty yard behind the church, so we decided to take a walk over. Now, it was super hot and sticky out, like I said, and my fiance had *just* told me he had to pee...see how easily I am distracted by even the possibility of a cemetery?
There was in fact a sign on a fence saying United Methodist Cemetery established 1859. Looking at the empty field I figured the graves had been moved. A lot of people buried in small graveyards around here have ended up in Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale. But when I saw the gate wasn't locked and walked in, I discovered the church yard wasn't empty - all the headstones were lying flat! It was like I had entered the past - here was this tiny, old cemetery off a modern busy road right around the corner from where I lived and I never knew! And on Independece Day no less, when we think about the past, and our families, many of whom came here for the freedom we celebrate every July 4th. I'll have to go back to see if I recognize any of the names of the people bried there.
So always keep your eyes open - look around, especially around corners. History - our own history - is everywhere!
|Dorothy Wright headstone in the United Methodist Church cemetery in East Meadow|
|Historical marker at the old United Methodist Church on East Meadow Avenue, East Meadow, NY|
|United Methodist Cemetery, established 1859, East Meadow, NY|
|A seemingly empty field is covered in headstones at the United Methodist Cemetery in East Meadow, NY|
United Methodist Church Cemetery